Congregation Emanu-El (CEE) members were graced with an enthusiastic Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT) panel that included Rabbi Harry, CEE congregants Robert Oppenheimer and Ruth Shreier (shown above) and GVAT Lead Organizer Chet Phillips. The panelists briefed us on GVAT’s past and present; they invited us to consider what a world where we took better care of each other might look like. They were passionate; they promised to provide us with ways to individually and collectively explore how Congregation Emanu-El might connect with their vision and help make things happen. They made it clear that they had given up “begging bowls” and planned to be more than “latté liberals”. Their policy development is oriented toward action. GVAT wants to collaborate more actively with Emanu-El and will take steps to make this happen. Our President, Sam Godfrey and many of our Board members attended this inspiring panel. Stay tuned! (For a few more pictures…)
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 7:00 pm on Zoom—Rabbi Harry invites you to participate in a special zoom GVAT (Greater Victoria Acting Together) forum for Emanu-El Congregants. The goal of this forum is to acquaint congregants with GVAT’s purposes and activities and to inform them about the opportunities that GVAT provides Emanu-El for tikkun olam. The speakers at this forum will include Chet Phillips, GVAT Lead Organizer and the Congregation Emanu-El members who participate in GVAT Action Research Teams. Find the ways to join Rabbi Harry below:
Join online: CLICK HERE…
Regular Dial-in: Call: 1 778 907 2071 Meeting ID: 890 6466 8356 Password: 649002
The purpose of this Forum is to highlight the importance of GVAT’s work, particularly given the damaged and fragmented state of our world today and our own forthcoming election. It will highlight the necessity of ensuring an active and committed Jewish voice in GVAT’s processes and procedures. We were once a lead voice in Faith in Action, with your help we can take up a similar role in GVAT. We owe it to our tradition, to our community, to ourselves and our kids, not to mention grandkids – they deserve a future, whatever that future may look like, where safety and security continues to be a given.
Our tradition tells us we do not need to complete the task of repairing the world, tikkun olam, but we are obligated to contribute to its repair. That has always been CE-E’s tradition. Indeed our very own Bernice z”l, a campaigner for justice like no other, has that call inscribed on her headstone “Justice, justice, shalt thou pursue”.
Our world is on fire, recently in the very real sense of the Americas, from the wetlands of the Pantanal and the Amazon rainforest all the way up to the State of Washington. On fire also, in the more metaphorical sense, from the ubiquitous injustice and inequality we see around us, to the South of us and across all the world’s continents, from homelessness to systemic racism, from mental health to the migration of peoples, brought on by war, conflict and climate change.
What I am saying will resonate with those of you who, like me, were privileged to hear Rabbi Harry’s drash on Yom Kippur – Hineni! Let us make a Rosh Hashanah 5781 pledge to join in the October Forum on GVAT where we will discover how a good Jewish boy, (a lawyer called Saul Alinsky) in the Chicago of the 30s, was able to vastly improve the lives of so many and to found an international organization dedicated to the pursuit of justice, through his actions, his philosophy and his writings. That organization is still active today and GVAT is a part of it.
Remember, we’re “The Little Shul That Could”. As members of Emanu-El, you are already members of GVAT; let’s join together to ensure an active and engaged Jewish voice in formulating and pursuing GVAT’s goals. Join the Forum and check out GVAT’s web site to find out more.
If you’re interested, please contact Ruthi W., either directly or through the office.
GVAT (Greater Victoria Acting Together) is an alliance of unions, congregations, environmental, education, local business, and frontline service organizations, working together for the common good in Greater Victoria and British Columbia. Congregation Emanu-El is a GVAT founding member. We have congregants who participate in Action Research Teams that are currently working on three issues: 1. Housing for all, 2. Mental Health and Addictions care, and 3. Climate Action.
Greatly concerned about youth homelessness during these COVID-19 times, GVAT wrote to the provincial government ministers in charge of this issue on July 24, 2020. Here is a link to this letter…
What will you learn?
POSTPONED Saturday, March 14, 2020, Congregation Emanu-El—The presentation by Chet Philipps, the Lead Organizer for Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT) about GVAT’s purpose scheduled for this Saturday is postponed. His talk is entitled “Not Hiring a Hitman: How Our Stories Can Save Democracy”. This is an opportunity for the congregation to better understand why our leadership has chosen to support GVAT and why congregant involvement in GVAT is important.
About the talk
We live in a time when political polarization and personal isolation are increasing, and democracy itself is imperiled around the world. It can be tempting to retreat into our most intimate circles of loved ones, those with whom we most agree, even as these circles get smaller and the lines around them turn into walls. Yet revitalizing our communities, our democracy, cannot be done at a distance. Nor can it be done through debating “the facts.” Sharing our stories means being vulnerable enough to share both our own personal pain and concern and to seek out how our stories connect with those of others, even the stories that seem to challenge our own. Pluralistic democracy depends on respect for our differences, yes, but also on our working constantly to invite others to join in the telling of a common story.
About Chet Phillips
Chet Phillips arrived here after 22 years in southern Arizona, where his work ranged over fields as varied as sustainable agriculture, creative writing, collaborative land management and conservation planning, and the social science of conflict resolution. For the 8 years prior to his moving to Victoria with his partner and their 3 young children, his work focused on organizing and empowering student leaders to create positive institutional change on the University of Arizona campus and in Tucson. Chet joined GVAT this past July as our full-time lead organizer. In all his work, he is guided by a saying from one of his mentors: “An individual can resist injustice, but it takes a community to do justice.”
On November 18, 2018 — Ten synagogue members attended GVAT’s Discernment Day. Rabbi Harry gave a rousing opening address. Approximately 100 people from more than 20 organizations worked to achieve consensus on which topics GVAT should focus. The participants selected Mental Health & Addictions and Housing. The Emanu-El GVAT team will fill us in on the decisions made at the meeting in the Koleinu Ḥanukkah edition. For more photos of our team at work (taken by our fabulous photographer, Penny Tennenhouse).
Sunday, November 18, 2018 from 2:00 – 5:30 pm — Over the past two years, Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT) has recruited organizations, trained over 300 people in community organizing and listened to the concerns of hundreds of people across the Capital Regional District (CRD). Now the listening season is drawing to a close and the time has arrived for the GVAT alliance (which includes Congregation Emanu-El) as a whole to come to a consensus about the community issues we will work on. We will do this on Sunday, November 18, 2018 from 2:00 – 5:30 pm at Cadboro Bay United Church. Congregation Emanu-El wants to see as many congregants there as possible. Please make sure to RSVP at http://www.gvat.ca/discernment.
This is going to be a monumental day when in discussion and in relationship the GVAT alliance will build a consensus on a scale never seen before in Victoria. Only member organizations will have the opportunity to vote at this event.
Thursday, October 18, 9 am – 5 pm Congregation Emanu-El, 1461 Blanshard Street — Feeling depressed about the state of the world recently? Want to do something tangible about it at a local level? Come and learn the basic tools and philosophy of ‘broad-based community organizing’ at a workshop hosted by Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT), an alliance of 20 organizations including foundational member Congregation Emanu-El, who have committed to work together to tackle some of the toughest issues in this city. The Building Power for the Common Good workshop provides participants with an opportunity to learn how to work with their neighbors to bring about effective social and environmental justice.
The workshop scheduled for October 18, 2018 from 9 am to 5 pm will be at Congregation Emanu-El synagogue. For congregants there is no charge for the workshop. (For information about childcare/travel bursaries, contact Flossie Baker at (250) 884-1347). For registration information…
There is a senior community organizer who is an impressive teacher coming up from Seattle for this workshop.
Themes covered in the workshop:
- Why organize?– Examine the history, traditions, and values of our labor, faith, community and educational organizations.
- Fundamental organizing skills– Learn tools to conduct individual relational meetings, listening sessions, research, negotiations and action to help obtain a concrete, winnable outcome.
- Strengthening our institutions – Engage people systematically in a culture that is relational, action-oriented and reflective.
- Problems vs. issues – Focus from general problems to concrete, winnable issues by
The Congregation Emanu-El co-ordinators for this event are Todd Litman, Andrew Gow and Ruth Schreier.
Preregistration is necessary.
Wednesday July 18, at 7 pm — Join Rabbi Harry and others on Wednesday July 18, at 7 pm at the home of Ruthi Wicks for a GVAT Call-out and pilot listening session. Anyone interested in learning more about GVAT and/or joining the process of bringing about positive change in our community and beyond as described in the following paragraphs by Rabbi Harry is welcome.
“We live in a time of increasing polarization, anxiety and fear: a time when truth is subjective, and around the world the spectre of demagoguery rears its head. Leaders are unencumbered by facts: the most exposed and vulnerable of society are increasingly at risk.
We believe that the medicine for polarization and fear mongering is relationship building. In working for the common good we serve as partners with Divine Source to bring about tikkun olam. This is a powerful mode of resistance to demagogues.
Our congregation is a founding member of Greater Victoria Acting Together (GVAT), an alliance of faith communities, trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community organizations joined together to build strength for affecting positive change in our city, our province and our world. GVAT is based on the traditions of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a community organizing movement founded in 1940 in Chicago based on the ideology of the American community organizer and writer Saul Alinsky, founder of modern community organizing.
GVAT is about working together towards a reality that expresses shalom, equality, sustainability and compassion. GVAT believes that strong communities are made up of strong organizations wherein sister organizations lend expertise and support to one another. Involvement in GVAT is good for our congregation. It allows us to use our unique gifts to help other organizations and offers us organizational partners to call upon for power and guidance. GVAT principles hold that strength begins by listening and knowing your community.
A challenge for us as Jews: there are organizations and trade unions that hold ideas and stances that are abrasive and alienating for us as a Jewish organization. The world of social justice is currently not always a comfortable place for us as Jews. The hope is that by working together on shared values we can forge relationships, change hearts and make a positive difference.
We want to involve you in a listening campaign. We have had opportunities to hear from many congregants about what attaches ḥaverim (members) to Emanu-El. We have heard stories of what congregants love about our congregation and what has been tricky for members in our congregation. We have listened to congregants describe their own struggles as collectively we try to understand what are the crucial problems facing our greater community and the world. Before we tally up the data from our own listening, we want to hear from you!
Please come join us.”
Come to Rabbi Harry’s sukkah on October 10 at 7:00 pm for a discussion of how our congregation can act for social change. Continue reading Want to explore how social justice, integral Judaism and GVAT relate?